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When you hear "project management," you may be think, "That's a business term, how does that apply to me?"
As a small firm owner, you are running a business, and each of the cases and assignments you take on are "projects." The organization that goes into project management is just as relevant to lawyers as it is to business people.
Here are some tips to "project manage" your case load:
Before you start working on a case, you need to figure out what the big picture is. Take some time to strategize how you are going to approach the case. The more planning you do up front, everything that follows will be that much easier.
Know your client's budget at the outset, and keep the budget in mind when you are planning your strategy. Your client's budget will dictate staffing, and possible courses of action.
Now that you have a plan and budget in place, it's time to execute. As the project manager, it's your job to oversee all aspects of the case. But that doesn't mean you should micro-manage. Always be sure to delegate assignments that you don't need to personally execute.
As you build a team for each project, meet periodically to review the status and progress of the case. Knowing what each member of the team is working on helps with the big picture, which can be lost when each team member is only focusing on particular issues.
Communication is an ethical obligation, and you want to be sure to communicate any progress, comments or questions to your client in a timely manner.
Once you wrap up a case, it's always a good idea to reflect on how the project went. Was there anything you could do differently next time? Anything that worked really well that you want to replicate for future cases? This is where the real learning happens, so be sure to take a moment and evaluate your, and your firm's, performance.
Project management doesn't need to be a burden that adds more work to your schedule. It should create a framework for you to organize your case load so that you can approach your work efficiently, and systematically.
Editor's Note, December 27, 2016: This article was first published in December 2013. It has since been updated.